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Darla Moore School of Business

  • UofSC Proving Ground

The USC Proving Ground Competition

Join us LIVE during the big event on April 14, 2023

The Proving Ground is an entrepreneurial competition to identify and accelerate innovative business concepts. We're looking for ideas that will create sustainable businesses in South Carolina, leading to more prosperity through innovation in our state.

Teams of USC undergraduate students, graduate students and recent alumni are eligible to compete for $20,000 in seed money, and for the chance to turn their ideas into reality. 

On April 14, finalists will pitch their concepts to a panel of seasoned entrepreneurs in a "Shark Tank" like event for the chance to win up to $5,000 in cash in four categories.

What is the timeline for The Proving Ground?

Feb. 24 Application opens
March 15 Deadline for submissions
March 20 Top ten finalists notified at the Faber Speaker Series event featuring Tim Faber
March 31 Finalists attend Pitch Workshop (2-5 p.m.)
April 14 Finalists pitch competition

What are the competition categories for The Proving Ground?

As part of the application process, founders should self-identify the stage of their venture. These will serve as competition and prize categories, assuming we receive enough applications in each category.

Stage Definition
  • No sources allocated
Early Stage
  • Some resources allocated
  • Some assets exist (i.e. social media accounts)
  • Business is operating with some modest success
  • Proof of concept and early adopters
  • Business is operating with a customer base, and revenue
  • Looking to expand or pivot

Applicants will have to specify what they plan to use the winnings for and Proving Ground winners will be revisited to see if the investment worked the way they expected it to. This is part of the sustainability effort of the program.

What is the review and judging process like?

  • Apply online
  • Judges review two applications each and grade them using a rubric.
  • Finalists are submitted by judges to the Faber Center and the top 10 will be invited to the live event on March 31. Applications not selected will be eligible for guidance and counseling by the Faber Center and student consultants.
  • During the March 31 event, mentors will work directly with contestants to polish their pitch and identify important elements like value proposition.
  • The best pitches from March 31 will be selected to compete for the grand prize on April 14.
  • Every finalist will have their pitch recorded and shared at the April 14 event where they can access additional resources including investors, community partners and mentors.

How do I register my team?

Fill out the online application.


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